'Sanctity of Human Life' day is Sunday

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--"Sanctity of Human Life" Sunday will be observed throughout the Southern Baptist Convention on Jan. 18, marking the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand.

While the anniversary is no cause for celebration, the work of 249 crisis pregnancy centers across the United States affiliated with the SBC's North American Mission Board spared more than 4,300 babies from abortion during 2008. Additionally, some 3,100 women accepted Christ last year because pregnancy center staff members shared the Gospel with them.

As of Dec. 1, more than 129,000 clients throughout the United States had received counseling and free services from the pregnancy centers during 2008; staff members shared the Gospel with nearly 36,000 young women and girls; and more than 1,000 Southern Baptist volunteers were trained to present the Gospel in the centers.

One such center is the Pathway of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Greenville, Ky., where Diana Anderson has served as executive director since 2005. While she has help from 35 volunteers, Anderson is the only full-time paid staff member.

Just because Greenville is a small town of 4,200 -– about 45 minutes from Owensboro -– doesn't diminish the community's need for a Christ-centered, pro-life facility to provide counsel on the devastating effects of abortion.

"As of Dec. 1, we've had 980 client visits to the center during 2008," Anderson said. "They come from all walks of life. During 2008, there was only one client who we know chose abortion. In fact, since Pathway of Hope first opened in 2004, only three clients ultimately chose to abort their child."

Although Pathway of Hope receives much of its financial support from Southern Baptists, it's actually ecumenical, also receiving funding from Muhlenberg County's Missionary Baptist, Methodist, Catholic and nondenominational churches.

"I'm scared, I'm pregnant and I need help," is the typical mindset of the center's walk-in clients, Anderson said. Some clients are pregnant girls as young as 13.

"Our center, actually a house, has a very warm, homey atmosphere. It's decorated like a home," Anderson said. "We want the girls to know that Pathway is a safe place, a place where they're safe to share their hearts, and then we want to love them to Christ. We want to share Christ with the mother because when the mother's life is changed, there's a ripple effect on that baby's life and into their home and family."

Ten young women had accepted Christ after counseling and sharing at the center as of Dec. 1. The center also has several area pastors and Christian men on standby with training to counsel and encourage young fathers.

As the economy has deteriorated over the past year, Anderson said the plight of pregnant young women has worsened as well, a trend likely to continue into 2009 as the recession and unemployment intensify.

"We had one pregnant woman finally come in after she had lived in her car for five solid days," Anderson said. "Many feel hopeless and are seeking ways to find hope, which we tell them only comes through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

Anderson, a North American Mission Board Mission Service Corps missionary, not only is responsible for Pathway of Hope but also serves as NAMB's trainer for other crisis pregnancy centers in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. She recently helped open a center in Huntington, W.Va., and will open one in Monticello, Ky., in 2009.

Anderson is a Greenville native and a member of Second Baptist Church, one of the center's key supporters among local SBC churches.

"One of the most effective tools for combating the abortion clinics is the local crisis pregnancy center," noted Elaine Ham, NAMB's resources/church and community ministries consultant in Alpharetta, Ga.

"Since 1973, more than 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers [SBC and non-SBC] have opened to provide alternatives to abortion and to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of women and men whose lives have been touched by abortion," Ham said.

Most people don't realize that the number of abortions remains alarmingly high, Ham said. In the United States, one out of five pregnancies ends in abortion. Under today's laws, abortion is legal for the entire nine months of the pregnancy, Ham said.

Within the United States, more than 45 million legal abortions occurred from 1973 through 2005, according to the pro-choice Alan Guttmacher Institute. At least half of American women will experience an unplanned pregnancy by age 45, and at current rates about one-third will have an abortion.

"Regardless of the reasons, more than 95 percent of abortions are performed as a matter of convenience -- not because of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother," Ham said.

"Can you imagine the difference we could make in these abortion statistics if Southern Baptist churches made it a priority to seek out ways to minister to women in unplanned pregnancies?" Ham said. "That is our priority on this year's Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on Jan. 18."

For more information on how to start a pregnancy resource center, how to support an existing center or how to minister to women who have experienced abortion, visit www.namb.net/pregnancy or call 1-800-962-0851. Affiliation with the North American Mission Board "means that we have either assisted local Southern Baptist churches in opening a new center or the center requesting affiliation has the financial and volunteer support of at least one Southern Baptist church," Ham said. "We work in cooperation with the state convention, local association and/or local SBC churches when we open a center."

For free downloadable sermon outlines and a DVD for use by churches on the upcoming Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, visit www.namb.net/pregnancy. For more about the Southern Baptist Convention's position on abortion, visit www.erlc.com, the website for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.


Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. This article first appeared in SBC LIFE, journal of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee.

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